No technological advancement can ever replace the feeling fans get visiting a historical sports venue in person. In honor of great stadiums, Stadium Journey compiled a list of the 10 most historic North American sports stadiums that are still being used.
In order to qualify for the list, the following criteria were considered: Historic status as the host of major sports events, or revolutionary design; iconic status as the home of an elite fanbase or tradition, a storied franchise, or by being an old ballpark that has stood the test of time; or fame as a venue that most North Americans would quickly identify with as a staple of culture.
10. Maple Leaf Gardens
In hockey-crazed Canada, historic hockey arenas are referred to as “Canadian Cathedrals.” Considering its storied history, Maple Leaf Gardens is the Vatican of Canadian Cathedrals. Constructed in 1931, the Gardens served as the longtime home to the Toronto Maple Leafs until 1999 as the Maple Leafs stacked the trophy case in with 11 Stanley Cups. The Gardens was the first NHL arena to utilize Plexiglas on the wall behind the nets and install separate penalty boxes. Other historic moments include the Canadian National hockey team’s defeat of the Soviet Union in the 1972 Summit Series, the first NBA game (between the New York Knickerbockers and the Toronto Huskies in 1946), and Muhammad Ali's 15-round bout with George Chuvalo in 1972. Though the arena no longer sports an NHL or NBA team, the Gardens is home to the Ryerson University Rams for hockey and basketball as well as the Toronto Shooting Stars, a Canadian Lacrosse League team.
9. Notre Dame Stadium
You’d be hard-pressed to find a North American that’s not familiar with the enchantment of Notre Dame Stadium, opened in 1928. Home to arguably the most popular college football program, Notre Dame Stadium is the Mecca of college football stadiums as fans from across the world flock to the small city of South Bend, Ind. for Saturday showdowns. Proving that even holy divinities love football, Touchdown Jesus is visible just outside the stadium rooting on the Fighting Irish.
8. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Though most are familiar with “The Coliseum” as the home for USC Trojan football, the history goes far beyond the college game. Opened in 1923, the Coliseum served as the home to the first Super Bowl in 1967, Super Bowl VII, as well as three home games in the 1959 World Series. Even more historic: The venue is the only stadium to have hosted two Olympic Games (1932, 1984).
7. Estadio Azteca
Opened in 1966 and located in Mexico City, Estadio Azteca is without doubt the pride of Mexican sports facilities. The stadium has a capacity of 107,494 spectators, making it the largest soccer-specific venue in the world. Estadio Azteca is the only venue to have hosted multiple FIFA World Cup Finals (1970, 1986) and also featured the “Game of the Century” in 1970 between West Germany and Italy. The stadium serves as home to Club America (professional team) and the Mexican national team.
6. Rose Bowl
Host to the “Granddaddy of Them All,” Rose Bowl Stadium is known by many as the home site of the oldest and most historic bowl game in college football. The pageantry leading up to the event, held in conjunction with the Tournament of Roses, is a staple of American culture. In addition to the Rose Bowl game, Rose Bowl Stadium also serves as the home of UCLA football and has hosted five Super Bowls and three BCS National Championship games.
5. Indianapolis Motor Speedway
The crown jewel of car racing in North America is without doubt the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The “Brickyard” has hosted racing events since 1909 and the renowned Indianapolis 500 since 1911. One of the oldest North American speedways includes a three-foot row of bricks in the track at the start/finish line, and drivers celebrate with the tradition of climbing of the trackside fence and drinking a glass bottle of milk after a victory.
4. Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Seven Super Bowls, four BCS Championships, five Final Fours, host site of the annual Sugar Bowl, and Muhammad Ali's final boxing victory are just a few of the high-profile events hosted by the Superdome, which was also the former home of Pistol Pete Maravich and the New Orleans Jazz. Adding to this storied history was rebirth of both a great city and sports venue after Hurricane Katrina in 2006 when the New Orleans Saints came marching back in to the Superdome. The Superdome opened as the largest domed structure in the world in 1975 and remained so until 1992.
3. Fenway Park
Turning 100 years old in 2012, a visit to Fenway Park is a journey through the history of professional baseball. Though Fenway has many unique features including the Green Monster, Pesky Pole, the Triangle, the Lone Red Seat, and Williamsburg, the ultimate qualifier for this list is perhaps the most loyal fan base in all of North American sports. Red Sox fans and Fenway have combined to create a record 793-game (and counting) sellout streak.
2. Churchill Downs
Originally opened in 1875, Churchill Downs is a legendary North American sports venue. Churchill Downs is home to North America’s most famous and celebrated horse race, the Kentucky Derby. The venue seats just over 50,000 but crowds of 150,000 or more are normal for the race-day experience. The pageantry and storied history of the track as well as the Derby itself combine as one of the most unique and storied traditions in North American sports.
1. Madison Square Garden
MSG has it all; it's historic, iconic, and famous. Originally constructed in 1968, Madison Square Garden is the oldest active arena in the NHL and second-oldest in the NBA, having opened in 1968. The arena has become part of the fabric not only to New York City, but also to the American culture. Madison Square Garden served as the host site for multiple NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Finals series as well as the home to several high-profile Big East basketball championship tournaments. As home to both the New York Knicks and New York Rangers, MSG boasts of strong, loyal fanbases. There is no other arena in North America with stronger name recognition than Madison Square Garden.
Stadium Journey is dedicated to providing fans with everything they need to know to make the most of their next live sports experience. With more than 1,300 venues reviewed, Stadium Journey has recommendations on what to do, see, and eat, as well as what to avoid.